Whether it’s in the office, at home or in the park, getting into the game of table tennis is both straightforward to start and easy to enjoy. For how fun it is to play however, table tennis has a skillset that can be tricky to develop, and can result in bad habits forming. To keep your game developing, we’ve compiled a list of helpful table tennis tips. From the small steps even before you’re playing to ways you can improve overall, find what you need with our rundown.

Table Tennis Tips to get you started

It’s an old saying that failing to prepare means preparing to fail, and the same applies to table tennis, even if you only play it leisurely. Here are our top tips for pregame planning

Use your own table tennis racket

Initially, this may seem excessive, but if you are looking to improve your game, having your own gear certainly won’t hurt. It won't just be a case of grabbing a bunch of table tennis equipment and heading off for a match either, it’s worth taking some time to consider what you need. When choosing a table tennis blade, the most important thing is how it feels. It’s best to start with a medium-fast blade, such as the Pongori PPR 130. It will provide optimum control and mean you focus on developing your technical skills, without having to rely on the blade itself to return the ball over the net. It’s soft yet sticky rubber will give you the best opportunity to develop your return of spin shots. Don’t worry about playing actual spin shots when you’re just starting out, it’s too stressful!

Maintain a good ready position

If you get your stance right, things should be made far easier. An early bad habit beginners can get into is standing with your right foot much further forward than the left when playing backhand strokes. While it's fine for this particular shot, you’ll be in trouble when it comes to the changing over to a forehand shot, which will be an important weapon in your table tennis arsenal (more on that later). In trying to make the switch, your body positioning will be off and it will be tricky to play with the correct technique. A much better way would be either standing with your feet square to the table or standing with your right foot only slightly further back from your left. The latter approach is the way most professionals play. This position will allow you to both play strong backhand strokes and still be able to comfortably move into a strong forehand shot.

The same applies if you play with your left hand, but just switch your feet, so your left foot should be slightly further back than your right one.

Also, whatever way you play, don’t stand too close to the table (try 30-50cm). This will mean that if the ball lands deep, you will be able to return the ball. It’s fine to go close if you get a short one, but just make sure you step out again.

Watch their paddle

It may be hard if you’re just getting started, but by keeping your eyes on your opponent’s paddle as they serve, you’ll get a good understanding of what kind of shot they’re planning on playing. It will still be worth checking to see how high they're tossing the ball up in the air, as a way of getting a sense of timing, but then refocus back on the paddle, as keeping your eyes on the ball will make it harder to react and make you easier to deceive.

Holding the bat too tight

You want your paddle movement to be as free as possible and that can’t happen if you're holding the paddle too tightly. It will mean your wrist and arm are tight, which will restrict your arm movement, your strokes will likely be jerky and it makes it harder to switch from forehand to backhand. By keeping your grip loose, you’ll be able to generate much more spin from your wrist. It will also mean you can change the bat angle easier, play faster shots and just move more freely throughout your game.

Table Tennis Tips for in-game play

Now the game is in full flow, these tips will have you winning points in no time.

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Photo by Wan San Yip on Unsplashlink

Step to the ball, don’t reach for it

Want to ensure that your returns are powerful? It’s all in the feet. If you’re outreaching wide across yourself to make returns, your shots will be sufficiently weaker or you may even miss completely. When the ball does go wide, side-step across to it, get set in your position and then play your shot. Ideally you want to be in the right position to play each of your shots, but of course that is not always possible. But by focusing on your foot movement, you’ll be in a much better place both figuratively and literally.

There’s no need to smack the ball

While it’s really satisfying to win a point with a forehand smash, if you’re just starting out, it’s the quickest way to develop bad habits and ultimately not win any points at all. Start things slow, focus on your technique. Once you’re feeling comfortable with that, and get the feeling you want to hit a power shot, try hitting the ball with 70-80% of your potential power, instead of a wild 100%. This will give the shot so much more control, placement and consistency.

Be wary of a floppy paddle

Despite saying earlier that it’s vital you don’t hold your paddle too tight, it’s also important not to go too far the other way. If you play with too loose a paddle, your shots will not achieve the consistency you’ll be aiming for. The best way of getting the right level of racket head control is through the angle of the paddle. For example, when playing a forehand shot, you will want the angle of the paddle to remain lightly closed throughout. If your paddle shape stays consistent, your shot will remain consistent. An easy way to avoid floppy shots is by pinching the bat a little with your thumb and index finger. It will give you more control over the bat angle, while still achieving a relaxed grip.

Know how to spin a ball

It shouldn’t necessarily be the first thing you start trying to improve when you’re developing your table tennis skill set, but at some point understanding sidespin will play an important part in your game. It is when the ball travels either left to right or vice versa, and it is almost always combined with topspin (where the ball travels low to high) or backspin (which is high to low). Topspin aside, these are really useful ways to keep your return low, make the ball bounce twice on the opposition side and limit the opponents serving options.

To handle your opponents spinning the ball, it’s all about how you angle your paddle face. For topsin, you’ll want to angle your paddle face down and make contact with the ball just above your center. If it’s backspin, unsurprisingly you’ll do the reverse of this, with your paddle face up and hitting the ball below its center. For right and left sidespin, angle your paddle face to the direction you want to hit the ball and connect with the opposite side around its midline. When playing each of these shots as a beginner, make sure it is done gently. The speed of the spin will do enough. Only once you’re really comfortable with playing these shots, should the stroke be more powerful.

Rely on your forehand

Once you get that aforementioned side to side footwork going, it will mean your forehand returns come much easier. By working on being able to adjust your body and hit forehands off both sides, your game will dramatically improve.

When playing the forehand, try to rotate both your shoulders and hips in unison during the backswing before connecting with the ball. This movement should be coordinated with a transfer of bodyweight from the back foot into the front. If you are planning hard forehand hits, it’s important the power comes from this transfer, not just your arm.

Keep your opponent guessing with your returns

Once you feel comfortable enough with your return shot selection, always be thinking about how you can put the pressure on the server. Much of Table Tennis is about turning the tide on your opponent, and none more so than when you receive serve. From drives to pushes to loops, using a variation of shots is one of the best ways to get your opponent to stop thinking about their own game and start worrying about yours.